Classes have started last Monday and I'm now in my new school. (For an explanation of why I changed schools, just read my post Changing Schools in Japan.) Thankfully, I'm with a private company and not with the Board of Education so I can make an appeal to what kind of school I prefer to work in. Initially, I was assigned to teach in a junior high school, 2 elementary schools and 2 kindergarten. The kindergarten got me and I can't really imagine myself teaching small kids. I talked to the boss and pleaded to consider assigning to just one big junior high school. My wish was granted. Yay! The previous ALT in my new school is also a dear friend. He gave me tips on how to adapt into the school.
|This is how it feels when I give a speech in school assemblies.|
As I've said, classes started last Monday. I was introduced to during the "welcome back" ceremony for the 2nd and 3rd years and the "welcome to JHS" for the first years. I didn't have to give a speech. Yay again! Some schools ask the new teachers to give a short speech to introduce themselves. I don't like doing this cause I feel nobody's really listening to me. The moment students hear English, they just shut off and will just wait for the translation. I can, of course, prepare my speech in Japanese but there's the danger of making the students assume that I can speak Japanese. (I did that last year and it took a while before I made the students realize that I only spoke Japanese for that rare moment.)
Though classes have started last Monday, the entire week was just filled with general assemblies and orientation activities. There was an orientation on classroom operation, discipline and behavior on Tuesday. Student health check happened last Wednesday. More orientation yesterday. Today, there's still classroom-based orientation. Basically, I'm just either at the gym or at my table. No classes this week. The thing with these orientations is this: Everyone knows it except you, the ALT. Nobody told me to go to the gym and attend the assemblies. I just figured that maybe there's a secret meeting cause all the teachers and even the principal and vice-principal are gone from the staff room. When the ALT is left alone in the staff room, it means all people are in the gym. I don't why they hide these meetings from me. It's not like I wouldn't find out.
Since nothing really big happened this week in the school, I have no issues. One reason could be because it's already my third year as an ALT. I'm more comfortable and less self-conscious in the school environment. More or less, I know what to do to adapt in the school system. I can also figure out what to do during my tons of free time. (Suggestions: blog, roam around the school, visit the school clinic, read a book, prepare your lessons, list down ideas, get the people's names, attend clubs) I can also understand a little Japanese so I can carry small conversations with "I-can't-speak-English" teachers. So yeah, being on my third year has definitely its perks!
No Issue...So Far
Another reason is the friendliness of the teachers. I don't mean to compare but I can't help it. Most of the teachers in my new school are warmer and more open. The Japanese teacher across my table initiated conversations during lunch. A couple of teachers always make sure I'm okay and never fails to smile at me. One teacher invited to attend her shogi club. The foreign assistant teacher talked to me in English several times. The first year teachers included me during the first year orientation activity. The vice-principal also made sure that I have lunch on the first day. One of the secretaries taught me how to print in color and in black and white. Simply put, the people seemed nicer and kinder.
Actually, it has been said over and over by hundreds of ALT's that the further the schools are from the city, the warmer the school atmosphere. My new school is almost an hour away from the city center. This is so much further compared to my previous school which is in the city. Stereotypical as it may sound, it seemed there's some truth in the further- warmer thing. I was reminded how nice the teachers are in Morioka City, Iwate. (That's up up north almost near Hokkaido.) I stayed there for 2 weeks in my first year. The place was so rural but the people are so sociable and pleasant. Every morning, they'd ask if I want tea or coffee. They chat with me in broken English.This is the opposite of the formality of the teachers in Tokyo and in my previous school. As a foreigner, I really appreciate the pleasantness of the teachers in my new school. Never mind the daily 1 1/2 travel to work.
(More on tips in working in Japanese schools here)
Classes have started last Monday and now it's Friday. I survived this week. It wasn't so bad. Actually, the week turned out better than I anticipated. I'm looking forward to a great school year!